Qantas Tour of South Africa

Aussies fight after Markram mauling

Superb century from Aiden Markram hurts Australia before they respond late in the day as they look to hit back after chaotic week

Sam Ferris at the Wanderers

31 March 2018, 09:00 AM AEST

Day wrap: Sayers leads late Australian fightback

Session times: 7pm-9pm | 9.40-11.40pm |12.00am-2am (all times AEDT)

The fourth Test will be broadcast live in Australia on Fox Sports while SEN's live radio commentary can be heard on the CA Live app and cricket.com.au

For the first time in what felt like an ice age, cricket returned to centre stage on Friday as a new-look Australia fought back late to leave the fourth Test evenly poised at stumps in Johannesburg.

On the back of a brilliant 152 from Aiden Markram and 69 from run machine AB de Villiers, South Africa posted 6-313 from 88 overs in front of a healthy, vocal crowds at The Wanderers.

Markram posts another ton to put SA on top

Pat Cummins was the pick of the bowlers with 3-53, while debutant Chadd Sayers picked up two crucial wickets late in the day to finish with figures of 2-64.

It was a vastly different Australian outfit that took the field on day one, not just in personnel but in attitude.

There was no chirping in the field, no menacing glares or flared nostrils from the fast bowlers and even the wicket celebrations were slightly subdued.

But, on a day when they relied purely on skill and athleticism, the Australians proved they were a match for their opponents who hold the series ascendancy two-one.

An hour before play got underway, former Test batsman Adam Voges delivered a powerful speech and a fresh Baggy Green cap to South Australian seamer Sayers, who was picked in place of injured spearhead Mitchell Starc.

Debutant Sayers receives Baggy Green from Voges

It was revealed Starc has a tibial stress fracture in his right leg, an injury that has seen the 28-year-old ruled out of the lucrative Indian Premier League this season.

As expected, Matthew Renshaw and Joe Burns took the spots vacated by banned openers David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, while Peter Handscomb was named at No.4 to fill the huge void left by suspended skipper Steve Smith.

Tim Paine, sans captain's blazer, lost his first toss as Australia's 46th Test captain and was ordered to field having wanted to bat first on a pitch that was white in colour and devoid of any green, living grass.

In the absence of Starc, Josh Hazlewood bowled the first over and was supported at the other end by Sayers, who bowled with the control and outswing that has seen him dominate the level below in Australia.

As has been the case all series, early wickets were hard to come by, and it took until Nathan Lyon's second over for the tourists to strike.

Pat Cummins superbly led Australia's attack // Getty
Pat Cummins superbly led Australia's attack // Getty

Speaking to the press before the third Test, Lyon said he couldn't understand why Proteas opener Dean Elgar continually tried to work him against the spin through mid-wicket, a method that had led to two return catches in the previous two Tests.

In the 18th over, Elgar tried it again and another leading edge followed, only this time it travelled as far as Sayers, who took a high catch over his head at mid-off as if taking a mark in the forward pocket.

The lunch break came and went without another wicket falling despite a disciplined bowling performance by an attack whose bad balls were few and far between.

But that didn’t mean Markram and No.3 Hashim Amla failed to find the boundary. Such was the exquisite timing of the two elegant stroke-makers, defensive prods pinged off English willow and raced to the rope.

Markram posted his fourth Test ton and pushed on to 152 // Getty
Markram posted his fourth Test ton and pushed on to 152 // Getty

The score had moved to 142 before Amla edged a flashy drive from an outswinger by Cummins, with Peter Handscomb taking a well-judged catch high and to his right at second slip.

Dismissing a local batsman generally has two contrasting outcomes; joy to the bowling side and disappointment to the crowd. But when Amla was out, you got the sense it was dread felt by the Australians and jubilation by those in attendance as de Villiers walked to the crease to a thunderous ovation.

Paine's first try at the Decision Review System didn't go to plan when he referred a not out lbw shout against de Villiers on six, but ball tracking calculated Lyon’s delivery issued from around the wicket was spinning past leg stump.

As tea approached, Markram reached Test century No.4, the equal most by a South African batsman after 10 matches at the highest level.

The 23-year-old has also scored the most runs by a Proteas opener after 10 Tests, with his 963 runs leapfrogging Eddie Barlow’s previous high watermark of 933.

Paine had another go at the DRS in the 63rd over and to the naked eye it looked a very reasonable review. Cummins pinned Markram on the front pad with a ball that angled in and kept going, but umpire Nigel Llong was proven correct when ball tracking again was the enemy of the tourists by predicting the ball to be sailing over middle stump.

De Villiers then pulled out the party tricks in the 70th over when he swept Lyon for two consecutive fours, the first powerfully in front of square, the second deftly guided to fine leg. When Lyon over-corrected, de Villiers pounced on the long hop and sent the off-spinner onto the grass embankment in front of the player change rooms for half a dozen.

An over later, Markram’s brilliant innings came to an end when his back cut off Cummins was intercepted by Mitch Marsh in the gully to give Cummins his second wicket. The crowd at the ‘Bullring’ rightfully stood in applause as the rookie opener left the field.

Cummins had two wickets and his third came just minutes later when Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis - having possibly not picked up the ball out of the hand - was out lbw first ball, tamely pushing his front pad at a full in-swinger that led Umpire Nigel Llong to raise his finger almost immediately.

Cummins’s hat-trick ball had to wait until the start of the next over, and unfortunately for the paceman it was de Villiers on strike and not new batsman Temba Bavuma. Cummins delivered a peach to de Villiers, which moved away from the right-hander after the ball to dismiss du Plessis had swung in, so good it did too much and passed the outside edge.

Cummins comes within inches of a hat-trick

Australia took the new ball as soon as it was available and with his eighth delivery with the fresh rock, Sayers claimed his maiden Test wicket, that of de Villiers caught behind. The star batsman confidently reviewed but Real Time Snicko picked up an edge and he was on his way.

Two balls later, Sayers doubled his Test-wicket tally when nightwatchman Kagiso Rabada chipped a checked forward defence to Matthew Renshaw at short mid-off.

Bavuma and gloveman Quinton de Kock guided the Proteas to stumps without suffering any further damage to round out a day when the cricket, finally, was the talking point.

Australia XI: Matthew Renshaw, Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Tim Paine (c/wk), Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood, Chadd Sayers

South Africa XI: Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis (c), Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock (wk), Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel

Qantas tour of South Africa

South Africa squad: Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen, Quinton de Kock, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Duanne Olivier, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, AB de Villiers.

Australia squad: Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Tim Paine, Matt Renshaw, Jhye Richardson, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc.

Warm-up match: Australia beat South Africa A by five wickets. Report, highlights

First Test Australia won by 118 runs. Scorecard

Second Test South Africa won by six wickets. Scorecard

Third Test South Africa won by 322 runs. Scorecard

Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3. Live coverage